Category Archives: Uncategorized

Are you applying to scholarships?!

How is summer treating you?  Are you gearing up for going to college in the fall?  Have you been doing a part time job?  Saving some money for books, a computer, parking pass, or coffee during fall semester?  Do not forget to apply for scholarships!  Every year, thousands of dollars go unawarded/unused because not enough people apply for monies that are ‘out there’ waiting to be awarded.


1.  Check your local county scholarship opportunities.  Often, your local county or city will have scholarships that are awarded for various reasons, not just grades or merit.  Your local library can be a great resource in helping you find these scholarships.  Also check local Rotary and/or Lions clubs, as they often fund education.

2.  Know your scholarship deadlines.  Check out these two different sources for scholarship information:  the first one gives examples of scholarship deadlines coming up in August.  The second one gives great hints about what to keep in mind when applying for scholarships; it also lists some ones to apply to.

3.  Finally, check out these scholarships with fast approaching deadlines.  Be sure to look at the one titled “Wholesale Halloween Costumes” – you could be the next recipient!

Be sure to read the rules of the scholarships carefully; abide by the rules (that is half of the battle, trust me); use your best essay skills (have a friend read what you write); and apply, apply, apply.  Good luck!

Which institutions should you consider attending?

This is a shout out to all you sophomores and juniors who are tagging along with older siblings as they attend orientations in nearby or far flung places.  Are you intrigued with the process you are witnessing?  Are you already thinking about where you will apply and maybe attend in one or two years?  This is a great chance to learn from your older friends/siblings and start the process on your own!

As our book points out, you need to think about your COLLEGE EXPERIENCE PRIORITIES.  What kind of college do you want to attend?  What kind of college experiences do you seek?  College is an experience — and you need to make the most of the process, not just the final result (which we hope will be a degree).

Parents are often most concerned about the financial consequences of your choice.  But we say to parents:  do not only consider price tags and fees.

Students are often not sure just what exactly to be concerned about, so they adopt their parents’ concern:  financial, institutional prestige (vs academic prestige), and location.

To really begin to consider where to attend and what kind of schools to even gather information on, we offer the ‘self inventory worksheet’ — it is available for free on our website under “worksheets.”  Check it out!  The first item might be the hardest:  “My reasons to go to college include . . . “.  Really think about this.  Why do you want to go to college?  Other items of inquiry include “My goals are . . . ” and “Activities I want to be part of while in college are . . .”.  These are great places to start your considerations regarding college.

Next week I’ll post more about things to consider as you watch your friends and siblings go through orientation . . .things that will help you when it’s your turn.  And that is just around the corner!

Who Will You Be at Orientation?

At many institutions of higher education summer orientation is in full swing. Transfer students and new first year students are roaming around campus wondering if they are near their destination, how they will ever figure out all these buildings and classrooms, and are anxiously anticipating if they might meet the student who will be their roommate or new best friend!

Yesterday, I started training student leaders for a pre-orientation special event we host for students and their guests in our program. One part of the training included brainstorming the types of students we are going to meet at these events. The list includes:
* anxious and fearful
* shy and uncomfortable
* overwhelmed and stressed
* know-it-all’s who are too cool for this
and a few other adjectives.

Then we brainstormed how they, individually as as student leaders, and we, as a team, will manage the emotions these students and guests (i.e. parents) share with us. We recognize these are emotions you are facing going into this event, those adjectives might not describe you in “regular” life.

Students, and family member(s), as you prepare for orientation, think about how you want to present yourself. Are you going to be the ‘know-it-all’ who has two siblings who already graduated from here, and you don’t understand why you need to attend orientation since you already know everything, and already have a course schedule prepared? Are you going to be so antsy from spending the past five hours in the car on the drive to the campus, that you can’t sit still and be respectful to the presenters? Are you going to be so overwhelmed that each time someone asks you a question, you say ‘I don’t know, this is all new to me.’ and not attempt to listen attentively enough to make your own, informed decision?

We recommend you go into orientation with an open mind and listening ears. Please don’t be pompous and demeaning to the student leaders and professional staff. Please don’t be frustrated and angry toward the people who don’t have your transcript. (FYI: you sent your transcript and exam scores to the Admissions office, not directly to your orientation leader!) Be friendly to new students. Ask them why they chose to apply here, and what made them say “yes” to this school, and which residence hall or apartment, they are planning to live in, and have they decided on a major and why they are choosing it? These interactions will make your orientation experience a positive one. Most importantly, have fun!!

Thank you notes

Last week, I discussed how to ask for a letter of recommendation.  Assuming your request for a letter has been affirmed, then you need to write a thank you note.  Thank you notes are also necessary after you have had a job interview.  They are also a good idea to a scholarship committee or granting foundation, especially if you received funding.  In short, just like your mother may have told you (and even she didn’t, let us be the ones to tell you):  thank you notes are low investment on your part but they pay high dividends to you.  In contemporary speak, thank you notes have a high ROI (return on investment).

Thank you notes for letters of recommendation:

Tucker Cummings writes here about the important components of a thank you letter to a professor.  There are examples of general thank you notes as well as specific ones for letters of recommendation.  Notice that the advice includes hints like “make sure to spell the professor’s name correctly” which may seem obvious, but aren’t always followed.  (Students spell my name wrong ALL the time; a simple google search will turn up the correct spelling and take all of 2 seconds.)  Also, notice that the advice says to “be specific.”  Name something specific that the professor did for you (e.g., write a letter of recommendation for X occasion).

Thank you notes for job interviews:

Liz Ryan writes here about the important components of a thank you letter after a job interview.  Any job interview!  (On campus job interview, summer job interview, career job interview, etc).  The author includes two examples of thank you notes — and gives the extra guidance of how to differentiate your email thank you note from your handwritten one.  Take note, people!  Thank you notes matter.  They remind the person of who you are — as a potential colleague and co-worker.  They also show the person that you are thoughtful and conscientious about your relationships.  This is key for so many jobs and situations.  Note that Liz Ryan also states that being specific in the thank you note is key.  So, take good notes at the interview so you can do the follow up in a positive and successful way.

Even if you don’t want the job or aren’t offered it, you should still send thank you notes.  The world is actually much smaller than we think.  A thank you note to one professor or company/business could put you into a good relationship with another opportunity due to connections.  So, take  5 minutes to write that letter, today!

Asking for a letter of reference

It is that time of year when many students are asking for letters of reference.  To be honest, the ‘season’ of requesting letters of recommendation seems to be nonstop.  This post is about how to request such letters from your teachers, instructors, or work superiors.

First, let me start by saying this:  you may be thinking right now “I’m not going to need a letter of reference, so this doesn’t apply to me.”  Stop right there.  You must change your outlook.  So many things you may want to do in the near (or distant) future are going to require a letter of reference.  Just what is a letter of reference?  Well, it is formal letter, written by someone (usually a superior of some sort, but sometimes a peer) who knows you well; can vouch for you as an outstanding person; and, someone with a level of authority that their ‘word’ (= letter) means something to the audience (job, scholarship board, graduate school, etc.).  Thus, it is important that in every role of your life (high school, college, job) you learn to develop relationships with people who will be in a position to write for you in the future.  You need to connect with at least one person in your school or your job (or club, team, etc) who will eventually be a good candidate to write a letter of recommendation for you.  This is crucial for future opportunities.

Second, let me move onto proposing some language that you could use to ask for a letter of reference.  I was inspired to write this post because I had a student send me an email asking if I would be “interested in writing a letter of recommendation” on her behalf.  This is a very weird way of asking for a letter.  I am interested in many things (reading, cooking, chances to travel) but writing letters of recommendation aren’t really something I am interested in doing.  Nevertheless, I recognize that it is part of my position and my role as a faculty member.  As such, I often write letters for students and am typically happy to do it for them.

So, how should someone ask for a letter of recommendation?  Ideally, you do the asking in person.  But, if you must send an email, then you might consider putting it quite frankly but politely:  Dear Ms/Mr./Dr/Professor LetterWriter, I am writing to ask if you would be willing to write a letter of recommendation for me?  I am applying to be a Curator at the local nocturnal reptile museum and they have asked for two letters of reference.  The deadline for the letter to be submitted is December 5, 2015.  They have asked that you address the letter to the Director of the Nocturnal Reptile Museum, Mr. Alley Gator; they have also asked that you write the letter on letterhead and sign the envelope across the back after you seal it.  I have an envelope that is already addressed and stamped for your convenience.  If you are willing to write for me, please let me know.  I can drop off the envelope at your earliest convenience.  Thank you very much, sincerely, Student in NeedofLetter

In the above request, you can note some details:  what is the letter for?  When is the letter needed?  Where should it be sent to?  To whom should it be addressed? If you know that particular information is required in the letter, give that information to the person you are requesting the letter from.  The more they know about what information is desired, the better able they are to write a strong letter on your behalf.

Finally, if the person declines to write, accept that.  You do NOT want someone writing a letter on your behalf if they do not really want to do it; the letter will be tepid and weak.  What you want is a strong letter of recommendation.

Remember:  make a connection to a potential letter writer wherever you are!  It will be crucial for the next steps to come in your life — no matter what stage of life you currently find yourself!



Feelings of being overwhelmed?

We (your authors) teach at a large public university in California.  We have over 25,000 students enrolled.  We don’t know them all.  But, we interact with quite a few everyday and those days turn into weeks and months, semesters and years.  This week, there has been a tragedy for one of our students.  One of the students in my department, who had been missing since early April,  was found and confirmed deceased yesterday (it appears that the student may have taken his own life).  We were notified by the Chair of my department.  It was heartbreaking.  It was devastating.  It was shocking.  It was tragic.  It was all of these loaded words you can imagine.

Today, students began visiting my office hours to talk about their knowledge of the deceased student.  “I sat next to him in class.”  “I took notes for him.” “I had talked to him.”  “He told me he wasn’t feeling well.”  Students cried and confessed that they sometimes felt the student wasn’t taking class seriously — consistent absences, poor scores on assignments, etc.  Now those same students felt guilt.  They felt shame for how they had judged a classmate who clearly was in crisis.

So, here are some thoughts:  you are not at fault if someone else causes harm to him/herself.  There are many resources on campus for processing grief and trauma (find your campus counseling center) take advantage of it!  Going forward, consider your classmates’ complaints from various perspectives.  If you hear of or see a classmate in distress, tell someone — the professor, for example.  It is NOT your job to fix or find a solution for the classmate, but reaching out and letting a faculty know could help.  It can’t hurt.  Finally, sometimes we are all struggling on “an edge” of something — maybe school work is overwhelming us; maybe family obligations are weighing us down; maybe work is pushing hard on us.  Whatever the situation, be aware that if you are already in a precarious position, the death of a classmate (or other tragic events that may not be directly related to you) can affect you adversely.  Be prepared to seek help.  Seek help earlier rather than later.  Talk to someone today/now, not later.  Most of the time, your university will have a counseling center that is available (either in person on by phone) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Don’t wait.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, act now!

And, take care.  You are doing a good job.  You are juggling multiple responsibilities.  It is NOT easy.  But, there are people on your campus who will show concern and will care.  Reach out.

Post Mid Term Blues

Spring Break is long gone.  The midterm exams (first or second ones) might be coming back to you.  The grades may be lower than you had anticipated.  What should you do?

Here is what 3 of my own students did in the past 10 days:  They each, independently, visited my office.  They hung their heads a bit — disheartened by their performance on the exam.  They were anxious — worried about their ability going forward to pass the class.  But, they were brave and reaching out — which made me proud of them individually and I let them know.

If you perform poorly on an exam, it is OK to feel disheartened and let down.

If you perform poorly on an exam, it is OK (in fact normal) to feel anxious.

If you perform poorly on an exam, it is NOT OK to retreat into your room and not reach out to your instructor and/or classmates/support network.  In fact, while it may be difficult, you need to go to your professor’s office hours and talk about the exam.  The instructor is about the only person who can provide context and clues to understanding exactly what your poor grade on the exam means for your overall grade in the class.  Only the instructor can explain to you which parts of the exam were done poorly and which parts were done well.  Your friends can’t give you these kinds of answers or feedback; but, it is precisely this feedback you need.  Therefore, you must go and ask.  You can say:  “I am worried about my grade in the class given my poor performance on my exam.  Can you help me understand my current standing in the class ?”  It is only this information that will help alleviate (some of) your anxiety and direct you toward a more successful path.

I want students to come and talk to me about their exam performances.  I want to help encourage, nudge, and guide students toward success.  Professors DO want students to succeed . . .  we often feel, then, like we, too, have succeeded.  Everybody wins!  Just remember:  success may NOT be a specific grade.  Success may be mastery of particular content or a meaningful connection with a mentor (the professor).


What is it about Study Abroad…

… that I am blogging about it again in March? Just one year (plus one week) ago, I wrote about Study Abroad, and here I am again! It must be something about the Spring semester, or the month of March, that gets students talking to me about academic travel adventures! Maybe it has something to do with Spring Break!? Come to think of it, my third year of college, I went abroad for Spring Break! It was quite an adventure.

At UNI, I was a member of the Women’s Rugby team; I spent sophomore to senior year bruised from neck to toe. In high school I was a cheerleader, so it was a bit of a transition becoming a rugby player. My second year on the team (third year of college) we participated in the Women’s World Cup Rugby Tournament in Europe. We were the only U.S. team, so although we were NOT Team USA, it kind of felt like it! The tournament was actually the week after Spring Break, so every member of the team needed to get signed permission from their professors stating they understood the request to be out of class the week after Spring Break; their signatures were our approval. It was exciting sharing this opportunity with each of my professors, but I recall fearing one of them wouldn’t sign the official letter and put me in a bind on what to do. Blessedly, they all signed!

I vividly remember, being at my teammate Wendy’s house, with her and two other players who were sisters, discussing our destination travel cities prior to arriving at the tournament. During that giddy chat, Wendy said something to the effect of “my mom is really worried about me traveling in Europe, but I told her, Heidi’s been abroad, so I can rely on her.” To which I replied “Wendy, I’ve been to Japan, not to Europe!” And she said, “Well, don’t tell my mom that!” Ah – a trip down memory lane, sorry; back to focusing on the original purpose of this blog!

What actually lead to me to think about study abroad this week, was this College U.S. Today article, Flying Solo: Five Reasons You Should Travel Alone While Studying Abroad. This quick read got me reflecting on two things. One, the conversations I’ve had with two students I mentor, Wilson and Selena, in the past three weeks, about the study abroad trips they are hoping to do this year. Selena is planning to be in London this summer, and Wilson is planning to be in Quebec in next Fall, or potentially all of next year. Two, the emphasis put on being independent! Study Abroad, on its own, allows for a level of independence, and traveling alone, while abroad, takes it to a deeper level. I have done these things; they are exhilarating and, at times, nerve wracking. But, here’s the key, you don’t have to go abroad to travel solo!

Reflect for a moment, when is the last time you did something completely independent and solely for yourself? Let me reemphasize the COMPLETELY INDEPENDENT part… and now reiterate the SOLELY FOR YOURSELF part…? Being a busy college (or high school) student, it is probably hard to pin-point when that was.

I suggest you look at your calendar/schedule/planner, and find time to be an independent adventurer, close to home, soon! It could be a road-trip to a nearby city, to the coast, on a hike, or anywhere. However, it must be someplace where you push your comfort zone, just for a little while. Wherever that may be, please, please, make sure it’s safe, and you’re safe! Imagine this outing as your preparation for a study abroad adventure. Have your phone/mobile device with you, but silence it, and only use it in a true emergency. Rely on your instincts, on science, on social science, on critical thinking, and definitely observation, to get you by. I’m quite confident your adventure will be a great success!

Oh, and one more thing, about my rugby trip; backpacking around Europe for 10 days, before playing in a tournament against all EU teams, wasn’t the smartest idea, but our team was proud to return to campus with a Dutch clog as a trophy for last place!

School is your job

School is your job.

Let that sink in.

School is your job.  Oh, I know; you may have a job — one that pays you by the hour; or, even a salary.  You might even think of it as a “real job” while you are going to school.  But, please consider reversing this order of priorities.  (And, realize, we actually encourage students to have part time jobs — up to 20 hours a week even; studies show that working part time while going to school can be a successful pairing — time management increases, boredom stays away, etc.)

But, I want you to consider making school your job.  This means you prioritize school (classes and studying) the same way you would your job.  You set aside 2 hours for every unit you are enrolled in to study.  If you are enrolled in 12 units, then you study 24 hours outside of class per week for those courses.    Set up a designated study space.  Be in that space for the required times to study for whatever is on your agenda.  Set up a “schedule” that has you ‘working’ on X class for Z amount of time every day or other day.

If you reach out to your professor with a question or a request, you need to check back with him/her in order to follow up appropriately.  Just like with a job:  if you reach out to your boss to change your schedule, don’t you constantly check/recheck your phone or email to find out his/her reply?  This should be true of a question or request to an instructor:  if you ask for an extension of  a deadline or to turn in homework late, you should be checking and rechecking the phone/email to find out the reply.  Prioritize school.

If your main goal is to work and draw a pay check.  Then do that.  Think carefully about school.  But, if your main goal is to earn a Bachelor’s Degree, then do that.  And do it with vigor and dedication.

Mid Term Mania

Today, when I walked into my lower division class to begin lecture, the following interaction ensued:

Me:  Last night, I sent around the Homework #3 assignment via our course webpage.  Did everybody see it?

Class:  Yes.

Me:  Did anyone start on the homework and try applying the new concepts?

Class:  No.

One Student:  I am waiting for the study guide.  (The syllabus notes that a study guide will be handed out prior to the midterm day.  The midterm is 2 weeks away).

Me:  Um, you should be studying and trying the homework right now, not waiting for a study guide!

So, here’s the thing:  Waiting for a study guide in order to study course materials is waiting far too long.  This strategy has very long odds for success.  Instructors/professors assign homework in order to give you the chance to practice what you are learning in class.  Obviously, the chances that the concepts from the homework are also on the mid term are pretty good.  However, why wait to study?

You shouldn’t.

Instead, take the time now to plan a study strategy for mid terms — whether they are one or two weeks away.  Plan out your days so that you work in time to study the materials you are engaging with today.  Make studying your job.  Right now your job is to be in school and to be successful.  Treat studying just as important as a full time job.  It will pay off.  We guarantee it!